Looking for the perfect Christmas gift? Sensory Toy Guide for Children with Special Needs
It’s Christmas! If you’re wondering what to get your special needs child this Christmas, it may be a lot easier than you think. Granted, most toyshops are not designed to be special needs friendly, but a lot of toys are suitable for differently abled kids and there is a huge variety of great sensory gifts available online. But you do need to know which kind of toys are suitable for your particular child, after all every condition is different and sensory toys are designed to assist and appeal to different kids. Here’s our guide to helping you choose the right toy for your little one this Christmas.
Visual toys for children with special needs
If your child is visually oriented, sensory toys that focus on light can be very engaging and enjoyable. Images, effects and movements are important for visually oriented kids. These toys are aimed at, or are suitable for, kids with autism and visual or sensory impairments. Visual engagement should be the primary feature of any toys you buy, as multiple forms of stimulation like tactical or auditory maybe overwhelm your child and cause confusion and distress. The right visual toy will have a calming effect. Our favourites for Christmas 2016 are the Light Show DJ, Light up Rail Twirler, Light Up Cushion and Liquid Timers.
Benefits of visual toys:
- Encourages colour recognition
- Visual processing
- Encourages concentration and focus
Tactile toys for children with special needs
Tactile toys are great for kids that learn through touching and are ideal if your kid fidgets and constantly needs something in their hands to occupy them. What we are talking about here are toys you can squeeze, bend, throw, catch, bounce and pull etc. Toys with different weight, texture and sizes are good for developing gross motor skills. Our favourite for Christmas 2016 are the Hedgehog Sensory Balls, Therasensory Ball, and Tangle Texture.
Benefits of tactile toys:
- Develop fine and gross motor skills
- Hand-eye co-ordination
- Size discrimination
- Colour awareness
- Tactile awareness
- Visual perception
- Visual tracking
Fine and gross motor skills for children with special needs
Fine motor skills are those which allow your child to grip, hold and handle small objects with dexterity. This ties into holding a pen, getting dressed etc. Gross motor skills are those which allow your child to stand, walk, jump etc. Our favourite toys for fine motor skills 2016 include the Learning Resources Helping Hands and the Tricky Tree Hands Exerciser. For gross motor skills we recommend the Toddlebike2 and Equilibrium Bridge.
Benefits of motor skills toys
- Improve gripping, dexterity and bodily movement
- Hand-eye co-ordination,
- Visual tracking
- Understand cause and effect
Bottom line when it comes to buying toys for children
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are a huge range of toys available that cater to different sensory orientations. Some are specifically designed, some are not but are suitable for your child. A great place to learn more is Toys R Us, who work closely with the National Autistic Society to stock toys for special needs kids. I wrote a blog recently about their efforts which you can read here. Their staff have been trained to help parents identify which toys are suitable, so it is definitely worth visiting to see what they have available. They also have a great guide to sensory toys online.